The Dartmouth Observer

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Tuesday, February 24, 2004
But he's not a freshman

Karsten Barde '04, whom I've had disagreements with in the past, returns in the latest DFP with yet another (predictable) piece on the racial exclusiveness of Dartmouth's traditions. This time, it's the Polar Bear Swim -- or this year's Swim in particular -- that's under scrutiny for its supposed exclusiveness. The evidence Karsten employs is, as usual, substantial: one anecdote seems to do the trick this time around. Let's pose a few questions:

First, how reliable were his sources? Judging from comments they made such as "Were white kids the only ones stupid enough to jump into a frozen pond in the dead of winter?" I'd say not very reliable at all. It is of course perfectly acceptable in Karsten's view to make statements such as these calling white kids stupid. How would he react if someone said, "Were black/Asian/minority kids the only ones stupid enough not to attend such a cool event?" I simply cannot believe that they were the only two minorities there. How long did they stay for? How extensive was their search? Could they possibly have been prejudiced against the event before they attended it?

Second, why does Karsten constantly presume to speak on behalf of minorities at this College? According to him, "many students of color feel these divisions every minute of every day" and "it frequently takes an effort for students of color to fit into a white culture." Every minute of the day?? Sorry, I don't buy that; I invite him to converse with many friends of mine who will either strenuously disagree with him or express indifference towards his complaining.

Third, and on a related note, why does Karsten constantly exhort white students to recognize their "privilege" and "leave their own comfort zones?" For guilty white progressives like him, it's always, repeat ALWAYS, the white man's fault. Has he considered the possibility that minorities create their own comfort zones too?

The bottom line is that Dartmouth's traditions are open to everyone. Attitudes towards it, such as those espoused by Karsten and his two sources, are just that: attitudes, paradigms of racialist thinking that inhibit behavior and thought. Nothing is going to stop minorities from participating in the Polar Bear Swim except their own racial sensitivities -- and the cold.